Headline May 02, 2016/ ''' EUROPE'S *SO-BEAUTIFUL* BORDERLANDS '''



WE TEND TO THINK  of borders as immutable boundaries between one set of characteristics and another.

But for much of the world, national identity is less about political lines on map than history,  ethnicity, religion   -what the British writer  Colin Thubron calls the ''falseness of national boundaries''.

Journey to the edges of pocket-size Slovenia, and you cross four national boundaries  -into a rich mix of five beautiful cultures. And then,-

There are certain places in the world where the landscape is so sublime it renders you speechless, where all you can do is ponder it in awe. Which is all I can do, beams the author,  -high in the Julian Alps.

Far below stretched green valleys and, to the north azure lakes, I perched on the edge of the world, and in a sense I was. I was sitting in Slovenia; the valleys below me were in Italy; Austria just lay beyond. You couldn't tell where one country ended and another began.

And he continues: After an hour or so gazing, I hiked down to a stone-walled mountain lodge at the Mangart Saddle in Slovenia, where Erik Cuder and his wife were serving cabbage soup.

Cuder, dressed in black with a red bandanna around his neck, was short and dark and and full of ideas. Mangart, he told me, was a place where borders had never been absolutes.

''This is a meeting point,'' he said, sweeping his hands across the horizon, ''of Slavs, Austrians, and Italians''  And it had been for hundred of years, even as national boundaries moved.

Now Slovenia, Austria, and Italy are part of the EU. ''But there are profound psychological barriers in us,'' he said. ''I have a German name, yes; I am dark like an Italian, yes; but I feel Slovenian,'' he said thumping his chest.

The idea drew me in  -what are borders, in fact, for those who actually live among them. It gave rise to a plan: to circumnavigate Slovenia by weaving in and out of the nation, and its neighbours Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. 

Slovenia seemed an ideal laboratory; a little gem of mountain castles and villages, left unspoiled during decades of Socialist Yugoslav rule, that was also rich in border history.

At the northwest Italian city of Gorizia, I stepped across the border into Nova Gorcia, Slovenia, on the square called Piazzale della  Translpina. On the Italian side, a restaurant hotel, the Albergo Ristorante AHa Transalpina, has been owned by the same family for a century.

Across the piazza loomed Nova Gorica's railway station, a classic ornate pile of Austro- Hungarian solidity.

''My  mother-in-law is 73. She has seen the flags of four successive nations fly over that train station,'' said Mauro Gabana, the chef at the Transalpina restaurant, when I popped in for coffee.

The restaurant opened in 1908, when this piazza was part of Austria. A decade later, thanks to World War 1, Gorizia became Italian. In World war II the town and piazza were split in two. On one side remained Italian the other side went to communist Yugoslavia.

I set of on a two-lane road that rose into the forested hills and greener valleys following the milky So a River. it was hard to believe armies and traders had been treading these valleys for thousands of years.

The Celts stormed through in the third century B.C, the Romans just before Christ was born. Six centuries later Slavs moved in from the east. Some of most vicious fighting of World war 1 took place in these very valleys and mountains.

I climbed higher among the saw-toothed ridges that form the border between northern Slovenia, Italy and Austria. I was aiming for the popular resort town of Bovec, nestled in the shadow of Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain.

Bovec turned out to be perfect; a tiny maze of streets curving around a 400 metre-long main street lined with cafes and shops. At one end of town I found Dobra Vila Bovec, a lovingly restored inn. I ordered a dinner of trout tartar with seaweed pesto, lamb ravioli with sweet Gorgonzola cheese, and a leg of venison.

As I ate, it struck me that although Slovenia felt rustic and unspoiled, it was also, like my meal, sophisticated and sweetly modern.

Gazing up at the mountains, I suddenly wanted to hike up across them into Italy.

Slovenia stretched behind; Italy ahead. During World War 1, this was the eastern edge of the hotly contested  front between Italy and Austria. I wondered what the soldiers who were stationed here in winter thought:

Cold, miserable, lonely, guarding a backdoor to what, exactly? 

A border as an idea again  -a human creation that here seemed a little more than absurd.

The Honour and Serving of the ''Operational Research''  on Historic perspectives,  Life and Living continues. Thank Ya all for reading see you on the following one.    

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Croatia,  Hungary. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and the Ecosystem 2011.

''' Every Culture ''' - 

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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